The Tánaiste says he is willing to take criticism over the Cork event centre fiasco if waiting a bit longer for legal advice on the request for additional State funding means the venue is delivered.
Simon Coveney made the comments yesterday — ahead of tomorrow’s 1,000-day milestone since the sod was turned — as he confirmed it will be a few more weeks before the legal advice is ready.
“If it takes a little bit longer to make sure that it happens, well then I’m willing to take criticism for that,” he said. “But when we do finally get this done, and when the story is told accurately about the journey, the barriers, the problems, and the delays that had to be overcome, one after the other, I think people will see that a lot of very, very dedicated people will make this happen.”
It will be four years next month since the original tender for €20m in State funding was awarded to BAM for a proposed 6,000-capacity venue for the Beamish and Crawford site on South Main St. Plagued by design, funding, and planning delays, construction has yet to start and a planning decision for the enlarged venue is still awaited.
Mr Coveney said he understands the frustration over the ongoing delays but he again defended the pre-election 2016 sod turning.
Anybody who thinks that this was all some kind of smokescreen and that nothing is happening doesn’t really understand what’s going on,” he said.
“Everybody is working to get the same result here — to be able to approve a substantial amount of money that the state can provide to make this project viable but to do it in a way so that we get value for money from that investment and do it in a way that’s legally consistent with the tendering process that started more than four years ago.”
He said progress is being made in the legal process with meetings last week between representatives from the chief state solicitor’s office and Cork City Council.
“They are in simple terms trying to ensure that we can legally stand over granting up to €30m — a combination of grants and loans — to this project to make it happen,” said Mr Coveney. “But I think there is a few weeks in it yet, to be honest, to be able to finalise that legal advice.
“I know there will be some media commentary this week because it’s 1,000 days since the sod turning. I do understand the frustration and some people have become quite cynical about this project. All I would say to them is, if you look at the time and effort put into making this happen, and the money that has already been spent on this by BAM and Live Nation, and the time and effort by Cork City Hall, in the Department of Arts and Culture, the Department of Public Expenditure, in my office, in the Attorney General’s office, in the Taoiseach’s office — everybody wants to make this happen.
“The Government wants to make the money available, but we don’t want to make money available and then find that this project could be legally challenged.
“I certainly think we will have clarity on this before the end of the year.”